Is Israel’s legitimacy under challenge?

Henry Siegman writes:

When a state’s denial of the individual and national rights of a large part of its population becomes permanent — a permanence that has been the goal of Israel’s settlement project from its very outset (and that many believe has been achieved) — that state ceases to be a democracy. When the reason for that double disenfranchisement is that population’s ethnic and religious identity, the state is practicing a form of apartheid or racism. The democratic dispensation that Israel provides for its mostly Jewish citizenry cannot hide its changing (or changed) character. A political arrangement that limits democracy to a privileged class and keeps others behind military checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls does not define democracy. It defines its absence.

The claim that Israel is the incarnation and defender of Jewish values is contradicted by its treatment of an Arab population that has now lived for over two generations under Israel’s military subjugation – treatment that Moshe Arens, a former Likud Defense and Foreign Minister, has warned is turning that population into a permanent underclass of “carriers of water and hewers of wood.” It is entirely at odds with Biblical admonitions and Prophetic exhortations warning against injustices committed by the privileged and the powerful against the stranger and the powerless.

Israel’s problem is not the Palestinian or Arab refusal to recognize it as a Jewish state. It is, rather, the increasing difficulty of Jews familiar with Jewish values to recognize it as a Jewish state. Rather than demanding that Palestinians declaim on Israel’s democratic and Jewish identity, or conjuring non-existent threats to Israel’s existence, Netanyahu and his government would be better advised adjusting Israel’s policies toward a people that has lived under its unforgiving military occupation in a way that honors their country’s democratic and Jewish beginnings. That would contribute far more to its “legitimacy” and to its long-range security than its present undemocratic and very un-Jewish course.

Whether it is in response to a purported campaign of de-legitimization against Israel or a more broadly defined “new anti-Semitism”, the ploy that Israel’s defenders employ is invariably the same: it is to deflect criticism of Israeli actions by treating them as attacks on Jewish identity.

It is not what we do; it is who we are — and that we are powerless to change.

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6 thoughts on “Is Israel’s legitimacy under challenge?

  1. scott

    “It is entirely at odds with Biblical admonitions and Prophetic exhortations warning against injustices committed by the privileged and the powerful against the stranger and the powerless.”

    I suppose Mr Seigman has never read the book of Joshua. Therein the Old Testament celebrates the annihilation of a dozen cities, the murder of every man, woman and child. The animals were killed and the booty looted. This is the Biblical example of what the Jews did to secure the promised land. This ignorance, this willful suppression of an equivocal heritage is sophistic and hides truth.

    I’m not saying all Jews are guided by this, but the “Walls of Jericho” is a children’s song that celebrates the most repugnant text of all the world’s faiths. The golden rule can also be found in the Old Testament, it’s up to Jews to find inspiration from one or the other, I don’t know how the two are compatible. The enduring silence on this issue is bad faith. Voltaire refers to this in his “essay on Tolerance.”

  2. Christopher Hoare

    The actions of the Jewish state since 1947 have been illegitimate. The world would be tolerant and allow the state of Israel to flourish if it conducted itself in legitimate ways. Failing this the Zionist dream will remain a nightmare.

  3. DE Teodoru

    When you realize that Prof. Siegman is NOT unique but more the typical Jew than the untypical, then you realize that, in the end, there’s nothing to worry about. For it is important not to lose sight to the JEWISH ETHIC honed and sharpened over several millennia. Prof. Seigman is one of many. I thought that when my Jewish mentors (growingup over my long refuge through the Cold War) all died, the evil neocons– acting out their mensch-hood complex– were dominant. But, in fact, it only looks that way because most Jews are doctors, lawyer, professors and rabbis who look at current times of raging verbal madness and say “silence is golden for above all it does no harm.” But never misread that silence; for when the threshold is reached it is THEY that’ll rise up in one voice, whatever the consequences, to shout: Stop here and go no further for the future of mankind is at stake. So have faith and remember how many times it was Jews that dragged us back from
    the brink. THEY LIVE AND THEY’LL BE THERE TO SAVE US AS BEFORE….HAVE NO FEAR.

  4. Barney.

    There’s a new Zionist drive to keep the ‘anti Israel’ bloggers under control — see the following in the Guardian today : “Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groupsTwo Israeli groups set up training courses in Wikipedia editing with aims to ’show the other side’ over borders and culture”

    And, do a google for “Megaphone Desktop” , which is a software designed to alert pro Zionist groups about bloggers who oppose Israel, and they can then flock to those places to monitor them and report on those bloggers.

    Also, you should google ‘giyus.org’, another Zionist group that monitors ‘anti Israel’ internet activity and keeps an eye on blogging.

  5. Youth

    Teodorou, what does it mean?

    “So have faith and remember how many times it was Jews that dragged us back from
    the brink. THEY LIVE AND THEY’LL BE THERE TO SAVE US AS BEFORE….HAVE NO FEAR.”

  6. Barney

    Yes, Youth, I did wonder also about some of the ambiguity of Teo’s recent posts.

    I just don’t understand what Teo is getting at in a number of statements he has made.

    Any chance of clarifying Teo?

    Thanks, Barney.

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